Science in the Middle

doing 6th grade science – outside the box!

The yearbook: a feedback tool

on June 3, 2016

For the last several years I have purchased the school yearbook to remember the incredible kids I teach and have it as a keepsake to look back on in later years when they are all grown up. Last year, however, I realized that it is also a great tool for reflection on how my year of teaching science and building relationships has gone. Truth be told, it is more about the relationships, and a lot is revealed to you in children’s notes.

No 11 or 12 year old is going to write a teacher a thank you note of their own volition. I remember that from my own two daughters – as much as they loved a teacher, getting them to write a note was anguish and next to impossible. So sneaky me, I use my yearbook as that tool! The scribbles written (and any others written by parents and kids) are treasures I keep forever in a special file. All teachers keep one. So here’s how I make the most of it.



Recognizing first that kids love signing each others’ yearbooks, I get mine in the mix while they are fresh and new. Girls are more likely to write more and show feelings, so I will always get girls to start. Boys will sometimes just sign their name. If you start with only names, then that is what you will get, with no warm fuzzy notes.

Second, I am a self-proclaimed Sharpie addict. I have dozens, no, probably hundreds of sharpies. The kids love using them because they love Sharpies, too!

As soon as there is a critical mass of notes, it becomes “cool” to sign Mrs. Oltman’s yearbook. I think I am the only one doing this – at least among the colleagues I asked.

Some of the treasures include “you know how to get the class to learn a lot while still having a lot of fun,” “I loved all of your experiments and I will miss you,” “You have pushed me to be a better student,” “I totally understand why your class was voted least likely to fall asleep in.” Then there are cell phone numbers and email addresses for me to keep in touch, which I will use!

It’s not my only feedback tool, to be sure. But now, for 2016, the yearbook is a gift for myself that keeps on giving.



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